Imagine you run a business, and rely on Facebook to find your customers. Then without warning, you discover your ad account has been disabled because “the business violated our advertising policies”. Do you:

A. Move on, and find another way to grow your business

B. Contact Facebook, find the root cause, and work with them to fix the issue

C. Circumvent the issue by creating another ad account and resume as normal

This is exactly what happened to us. I wasn’t ready to roll over and resort to option (A). I, like any other reasonable person thought the most noble thing to do was (B) - get to the bottom of the issue. However, as I discovered later, no one amongst the half dozen employees I spoke to at Facebook could give me a straight answer.

Let’s start from the beginning. Our business ProfitView was set up with a mission: to make traders better. So, when advertising we went ahead forthrightly: after all, we’re improving the world, we’re not in the business of hoodwinking anyone or trying to psychologically influence them to relieve them of their money. If anything we are in the business of educating our users on what not to do, based on our 20+ years experience within the financial industry.

Our first ad campaign ran successfully, and we had over 100 signups up to our webinar on algo trading. Setting up the Facebook ad campaign, on the other hand, wasn’t so straightforward. Their advertising interface is riddled with glitches, and confusing navigation - icons in one place, lists in another. It is just a bad piece of work. I was left scratching my head: this is the cash cow of one of the most successful companies in the 21st century - how could it be so messed up?

Being new to the game I sought education. YouTube delivered as usual. Ben Heath does an excellent job of working you through the basics and beyond. He manages the “Facebook Ads Mastermind Group” which I joined. Reading the threads there gave me a fascinating insight into the world of Facebook advertising. One of the most common posts was along the lines of “Help! My Facebook account got disabled”. My initial reaction was “Hey, you’re probably trying to sell dodgy merch or get rich quick schemes - what do you expect?”. That is until, you guessed it, the same thing happened to us:

Ad account disabled

To explain how we got here, perhaps it is worth recalling how advertising on Facebook works. When publishing an ad, part of the process involves a “Review”. You write up the copy for your ad, include any appropriate images, click “Publish” and wait. Usually within a couple of hours, the review concludes with an approval and the ad is running. Prior to our account ban, we never encountered problems with the ad review process.

As Sarah Frier reported on Bloomberg, we were not the only business who had their advertising lifeline cut off for no clear reason. Sarah blames Facebook’s AI, which has taken over while humans focussed on Covid-19 disinformation amongst other areas.

We began the process requesting a review of our account ban by answering a short sequence of multiple choice clicks including “Why are you requesting a review?” for which I chose “I’m not sure which policy was violated”. There was a small free text field, where I wrote “Please explain what policy was violated. We will immediately rectify the issue.” Okay, that should do the trick: we’re the good guys - remember?

The response:

“We’re reviewing your business account to determine if it was correctly restricted from advertising and will notify you here as soon as possible. It may take several weeks to get a response.”

My initial thoughts, why several weeks, when reviewing my ad takes a couple of hours? Perhaps the answer to that should be obvious. In the end the review was completed in 11 days.

“After further review of your business account, we found it didn’t comply with our Advertising Policies ( or other standards. This business account will no longer be allowed to advertise and its Ad accounts and Ads will remain disabled. Please consider this decision final”

At this stage, we still have no idea of what policy was violated. The most specific info we ever got was “running misleading ads that have been known to result in negative feedback from Facebook users”. But which ad? Misleading in what way? After all, our ads had been approved. Was there actual negative feedback? Is this separate from the ad review or did you miss something the first time?

I was pretty much stumped at this point. My feeling was that such behaviour - summary judgement effectively without the possibility of appeal - applied to your customers is only possible with a monopoly.

As luck would have it, a Facebook business manager, who we’ll call Vicky, reached out to me with a pleasant message, offering advertising help, with a view of encouraging us to increase our ad spend. Okay - why not? I clicked the link, and booked a 45 minute call with Vicky.

I didn’t expect much, but I was glad to be able to talk to a real person finally. I explained our business in some detail, and the mystery that surrounded the ad account ban. Vicky entered a support ticket on our behalf with Facebook Concierge Support to re-enable the account. To our disappointment, Rad from concierge support replied with:

“It seems that our Internal Team has already reviewed your account and we regret to inform you that your account has been disabled for not following Facebook’s Advertising Guidelines”.

Hang on, we have still no idea which policy was violated. Sigh…

As a final thought I forwarded these emails, including screenshots of the ads to Vicky. It took a few days, but she eventually replied with:

“I have discussed your case with my team and the only solution we came up with is to create a new ad account”.

Amazing - Facebook advising us to circumvent their own terms of service. Next time, I think about doing the right thing, I may have to think again.